Spelling, Vocabulary, and Confusing Words

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Many words in English sound or look alike, causing confusion and not a few headaches. This section lists some of these words, and other troublemakers.


"Hey! You! Get off of my cloud," sang the Rolling Stones, unnecessarily. Make it off my cloud. The of in "off of" adds nothing, so why not drop it?


See aural, oral.


Ordinance: a law.

Ordnance: military weapons and ammunition.


Overdo: to go overboard with; behave excessively.

Overdue: behind time; payable.


She is overly concerned about her job. Note that if the opposite were true, no one would say "underly concerned." Make it too concerned or overconcerned.

Many writers think overly is unnecessary and a bit precious. "Making over into overly," says Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words, "is a little like turning soon into soonly. Adding -ly does nothing for over that it could not already do."

Misused Words

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